Animals

FAA gets confused, tries to ground cranes

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided to allow a whooping crane migration to continue, after initially trying to halt it. PLANES, guys. You are in charge of PLANES. Actually, the FAA was only grounding the cranes as a byproduct of grounding planes -- specifically, the ultralight craft that guide the endangered birds on their migration route. Whooping crane chicks raised in captivity, which many of them are since the birds are so threatened, don't have parents to demonstrate migration to them. So conservationists from Operation Migration have the babies imprint on pilots dressed as birds. Then the chicks follow the ultralights on the 1,200-mile flight. Evidently the FAA doesn't find this as adorable as I do, because they're now quibbling over whether the pilots are allowed to keep training their flocks of babies.

U.S. becomes first country on Earth to limit catch size for all fish

In a rare bipartisan move -- the policy was initiated under George W. Bush and finalized under Obama -- the federal government has enacted catch size limits in order to prevent overfishing of coastal seas, reports the Washington Post.

Critical List: No Grand Canyon uranium mining; Supreme Court case on wetlands

The Obama administration will announce today that it's limiting uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. And the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a major environmental case in which the Sacketts, a couple backed by the conservative property rights group Pacific Legal Foundation, claim the EPA unfairly restricted their use of the property by determining that it was a wetland. A Japanese whaling ship is holding three activists who boarded it to protest its activities. Is there a bubble in shale gas stakes?

St. Louis Zoo builds love hotel for salamanders

Ozark hellbenders, aka "snot otters" and "lasagna sides," are among the world's largest and least cute salamanders. Looking at them, it’s probably not a big surprise that they’re having a hard time breeding -- although inexplicably, scientists think it’s NOT because of their pancake heads or beady little eyes, but some problem in the natural environment. Now that there are fewer than 600 hellbenders left in Ozark rivers, scientists at the Saint Louis Zoo decided to step in and create a place for the salamanders to get it on. The salamanders' love nest is a simulated river built to bring out amorous feelings in hideous beasties: The zoo has built a kind of honeymoon resort for salamanders, assembling a mini water treatment plant and carefully tweaking water chemistry to recreate their cold, fast-flowing Ozark streams — minus any distracting predators or pollution. ...

Critical List: Toxic chemicals on the rise; baby seals in trouble

The EPA may retest water in Dimock, Pa., where residents have linked polluted water to fracking operations. In its first round of testing the town's water, the EPA declared it safe. GM is fixing up the Volt in order to avoid in real-life battery fires like the ones that started during testing. As winter sea ice disappears in the Arctic, fewer baby harp seals are making it. The amount of toxic chemicals shunted into the environment went up 16 percent between 2009 and 2010, according a new EPA report.

Zombie bees!

We've been concerned for a while about colony collapse disorder, which has been decimating honeybee populations. The disorder is of uncertain origin, though there's some evidence linking it to pesticides; there's also evidence for viruses, fungi, and mites, or maybe it's all of them. And now scientists are investigating the possibility that it's caused by parasitic flies turning bees into zombies.

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